Junior Partner South Africa (I)

PRETORIA/BERLIN | | suedafrika

PRETORIA/BERLIN (Own report) - In view of the German South African cooperation in the preparation of the upcoming World Cup, German government advisors are contemplating South Africa’s importance for German foreign policy. According to a recently published study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), South Africa has "without any doubt the potential" to impose its hegemony on sub-Saharan Africa and Germany has considerable influence on that country. Both factors enable Germany to use Pretoria as a stabilizing force, influencing African developments to the advantage of German interests. But this should be undertaken carefully, because the opinion that "South Africa is representing Western interests" is already widespread in Africa. SWP recommends countering South Africa’s strivings for cooperation with other countries of the southern hemisphere, at the expense of its cooperation with the EU and USA, by further developing the already close military cooperation and the security measures implemented jointly on the African continent.

Hegemonic Potential

According to a recently published study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), South Africa has "without any doubt the potential to impose its hegemony on Southern Africa, if not on the whole of sub-Saharan Africa".[1] South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is more than one fifth of the GDP for all of Africa, more than one third of the GDP of the sub-Sahara and more than two thirds of Southern Africa's GDP. South Africa has the "most diversified and industrialized national economy," in the whole of Africa and possesses "the widest range of strategically important resources", including platinum (88% of the world’s reserve), manganese (80%) and chromium (72%). Over the past few years, South African enterprises have been "heavily investing in other African countries, in some cases even achieving predominance on their markets and obtaining access to their important resources". "South African products" can also be found "in supermarkets throughout Africa" and "private South African TV stations can be widely received". In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is also the leading military power. "Even though its army is not the largest, it is the best equipped and best trained."

Advantage of Location

South Africa, the leading power on the continent, is "by far" also the "most important country in Africa south of the Sahara," according to SWP. With a trade volume of 12.6 billion Euros in 2008, South Africa is Germany’s most important trading partner in Africa and the most important country on the continent for direct German investments (4.6 billion Euros by the end of 2007). German business is also considering the "Cape Republic as a gateway to other African markets" reports SWP. Germany is enjoying "some advantages of the location" of the country. The strong presence of German enterprises - approximately 600 enterprises employ more than 90,000 people - "is being positively received by the majority of the population". Development cooperation has been "massively expanded" over the past few years and there is "close military cooperation and in the field of armament". Indeed, German-South African cooperation had already been close during Apartheid. It is on a solid foundation and is strategically oriented.

Continental Stabilizing Force

Berlin is seeking to use South Africa as a stabilizing force. "Germany is very interested in having South Africa play a leading regional and continental role," according to SWP. As successful examples, the study points to the peace agreement in Burundi (2000) and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2002), both mediated by South Africa, but notes that Pretoria is not always fulfilling European and American demands, as in the case of Zimbabwe, where the South African government is not confrontational to President Robert Mugabe.[2] South Africa also prefers "soft rather than hard power", criticizes SWP, whereas Nigeria, the second most important power in sub-Saharan Africa, relies mainly "on applying means of hard power", such as the military. "Based on the reputation and the successes of Nigeria’s policy" the study claims, "South Africa’s Africa policy must become more Nigerian." Numerous foreign policy experts are insisting that South Africa plays "the role of the friendly hegemon, who is not hiding its claim to leadership and when exercising it expecting others to follow voluntarily, but who would not hesitate to impose it, if necessary," SWP writes.

The Question of Positioning

Berlin seeks to win South Africa as an ally also for beyond the African continent. South Africa is a classical medium power, estimates SWP. In the case of medium powers, the "primary question is how they position themselves in relationship to major and super powers." A medium power could seek, "together with others, to counterbalance major powers" or could subordinate itself to them. Berlin supports the latter: Germany is "very interested in winning South Africa as a partner for global security policy." SWP regrets that South Africa is currently tending more toward cooperating with other states in the southern hemisphere. "On a global level," the study writes, "it is necessary to counter the South African diplomatic preference for seeking to reduce the global imbalance between North and South by strengthening South-South alliances."

Partners in War

To achieve this, the SWP is proposing not only that overall business and political influence be strengthened, but above all that a closer cooperation in security policy be achieved. As a matter of fact, Germany and South Africa are already engaged in close military cooperation. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]) In 2004 and 2005 Pretoria was the most significant customer of German military goods, outside the EU, NATO and NATO equivalent countries. According to SIPRI, in 2007, Germany was also South Africa's most significant source of combat hardware - when measured in worth. Because of "the growing German interest in a stabilization of sub-Saharan Africa and its growing readiness to achieve it even militarily," a "closer cooperation with the regional power, South Africa, in the question of security becomes imperative" writes the SWP. "Questions of security policy," particularly "the resolution of armed conflicts, stabilization of fragile governments and the struggle against organized crime" are predestined "also for structuring the partnership with South Africa in the role of a medium power." In fact, Germany and South Africa fighting wars alongside one another in Africa is suited for placing Pretoria's annoying "south-south alliance" in a bad light, forcing Pretoria to orient itself more on the North.

Domestic Conditions

The German plans to win South Africa as a gendarme in Africa and a supporter in global politics, has, of course, as a prerequisite that the country's domestic political situation is not an impediment to its taking offensive strides. The concrete conditions that must be fulfilled and how Berlin can support Pretoria in their fulfillment, according to the German government advisors, can be read here in the next few days.

[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden: Stefan Mair: Südafrika - Modell für Afrika, Partner für Deutschland? SWP-Studie S12, Mai 2010
[2] s. dazu No Better Opportunity
[3] s. dazu War Scenarios for Africa